Geneva Convention
(1864)
   The Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field, known as the Geneva Convention, had as its goals the protection of the vulnerable in wartime and the prevention of unnecessary suffering. Its key provision was that once soldiers were wounded, they were no longer legal combatants and should not be targeted as such. Signatories to the convention pledged to protect the wounded and allow representatives of the Red Cross to administer aid. The Geneva Convention also called for those killed in war to be properly identified and given a proper burial, as well as for a prohibition of weapons of war that cause “undue” suffering, notably “dum-dum” bullets. The Geneva Convention was extended in 1906 to cover war at sea, in 1929 to provide protection for prisoners-of-war, and in 1949 to protect civilians during war.
   The First Geneva Convention was inspired by the Swiss doctor Jean Henri Dunant, the founder of the International Red Cross. Dunant was in the Italian town of Solferino in 1859 during a battle between Franco-Sardinian and Austrian troops. He was horrified by the suffering of battle casualties, who were left to die on the field because neither side would agree to a truce to retrieve them. He helped some of the injured himself and subsequently wrote A Memory of Solferino , published in 1862, proposing the creation of a civilian relief organization to aid the wounded in war. Dunant’s work led to the formation of a private Red Cross organization in Geneva and to the international conference in Geneva in 1864, which drafted the Geneva Convention. The convention recognized the work of the International Red Cross, the new international organization comprised of the private Red Cross organizations that had begun to form in other European nations. Its headquarters was also in Geneva. Although the International Red Cross was technically an independent body, its member organizations often worked in close collaboration with national military and medical staffs, illustrating the connections between national and international ideals in the nineteenth century. The Geneva Convention was an early step in the establishment of international humanitarian law. It provided a moral standard against which foreign policies and military affairs could be judged and gave legitimacy to later humanitarian campaigns against some of the more egregious examples of imperial rule. The desire to attenuate the violence of war also inspired the 1899 Hague Peace Conference and the 1907 Hague Convention on Land Warfare, both of which put forth rules of warfare in the spirit of the First Geneva Convention.
   FURTHER READING:
    Hutchinson, John F. Champions of Charity: War and the Rise of the Red Cross. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1996;
    Hutchinson, John F. “Rethinking the Origins of the Red Cross.” Bulletin of the History of Medicine 63, 4 (1989): 557–578;
    Moorehead, Caroline. Dunant’s Dream: War, Switzerland and the History of the Red Cross. London: Harper Collins, 1998;
    Reisman, Michael W., and Chras T. Antoniou. The Laws of War. New York: Vintage, 1994.
   DANIEL GORMAN

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Geneva convention — Geneva Ge*ne va, prop. n. The chief city of Switzerland. [1913 Webster] {Geneva Bible}, a translation of the Bible into English, made and published by English refugees in Geneva (Geneva, 1560; London, 1576). It was the first English Bible printed …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Geneva Convention — an international convention adopted in Geneva. There have been a number of these. The one most likely to be encountered by the general public is that on treatment of prisoners of war. As a convention it is part of international law. Other notable …   Law dictionary

  • Geneva Convention — Geneva Con|ven|tion, the a set of agreements that establish rules for how people should be treated during wars, especially if they are wounded or taken prisoner. The Geneva Convention was first written in Geneva, Switzerland, in the 19th century… …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • Geneva Convention — n. an international agreement signed at Geneva in 1864, establishing a code, later revised, for the care and treatment in wartime of the sick, wounded, and dead, and of prisoners of war, including protection of civilians and of hospitals, etc.… …   English World dictionary

  • Geneva Convention — n. an international agreement first made at Geneva in 1864 and later revised, governing the status and treatment of captured and wounded military personnel in wartime. * * * Geneva Convention 7 [Geneva Convention] [dʒəˌniːvə kənˈvenʃn] [dʒəˌniːvə …   Useful english dictionary

  • Geneva convention — noun Date: 1880 one of a series of agreements concerning the treatment of prisoners of war and of the sick, wounded, and dead in battle first made at Geneva, Switzerland in 1864 and subsequently accepted in later revisions by most nations …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • Geneva Convention — one of a series of international agreements, first made in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1864, establishing rules for the humane treatment of prisoners of war and of the sick, the wounded, and the dead in battle. * * * …   Universalium

  • Geneva Convention — An international agreement formed at meetings in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1864 and 1906, relating (among medical subjects) to the safeguarding of the wounded in battle, of those having the care of them, and of the buildings in which they are being …   Medical dictionary

  • Geneva Convention — agreements that were signed in Geneva which set rules on how to deal with victims of war …   English contemporary dictionary

  • Geneva Convention — Gene′va Conven′tion n. gov mil one of a series of international agreements, first made in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1864, establishing rules for the humane treatment of prisoners of war and of the sick, the wounded, and the dead in battle …   From formal English to slang

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